Early Beginnings – Daguerreotypes (1840-1860)

Latin America in 3D: Exploring the Image Archive of The Latin American Library

Early Beginnings of Stereoscopic Photography

Stereoscopic photography was born during the very beginnings of commercial photography and using one of the earliest techniques to produce a lasting image called daguerreotype.  Named for the inventor of the technique, Louis Daguerre (1787-1851), daguerreotypes are unique images created on photo-sensitized metal plates (silver coated copper) that required a long exposure time; thus, the subjects of daguerreotype images are often portraits or still life scenes.  Daguerreotypes were also relatively expensive, making them affordable only for members of society’s upper classes.  The daguerreotype of the filibuster, Callender Irving Fayssoux (1820-1897), below, was taken by T.C. Rhodes who operated a commercial studio in San José, Costa Rica.

Portrait of Callender I. Fayssoux, 1840-1860.

After Sir Wheatstone’s public demonstration of stereography, double-lens cameras were soon invented to create paired photographs as were the stereoscopes for viewing the stereographs produced.  The earliest stereoscope based on lenses for commercial sale was a finely crafted table-top device made of wood and optics invented by Sir William Brewster in 1850.  Rare examples of daguerreotype stereographs can be viewed on the Library of Congress website.  Click HERE to see examples.